Foliage is Forever

Calathea Rattlesnake

Calatheas are one of my favorite houseplants for interesting, unusual foliage, but I must tell you that in my cooler, New England home, they struggle a little. Basically these are rainforest understory plants and my dry, cold house is about as far from a rainforest as you can get in say, February.

So, occasionally I give up and toss the sadder looking of my plants. But I find that if I start with large, robust specimens going into the fall, most of them will get through the winter just fine. You don’t want to see many of these plants when I first bring them outside for their “summer vacation.”

Calathea Zebrina

Luckily, they don’t need much of a summer vacation to revive and grow new leaves. This year I tucked them underneath a Japanese maple. Last year they summered underneath a dogwood–you know, typical rainforest plants, right? But the deep shade and humid conditions seemed to be what they needed to re-foliate to get through another long New England winter.

Calathea ornata

When I bring them inside, I do sit them on a humidity tray, altogether in one spot. I think that helps them somewhat. And of course they look lovely for a couple of months, until it really starts to get dry in my house and gray outside–but by then, I have forced bulbs for color to tide me over.

Calathea Maui Queen

There’s a significant discrepancy about growing instructions for these plants. Some growers say to let them dry a bit before watering while others suggest consistent moisture will lead to success.

Maui Queen’s leaves–the “other” side

As for light, bright indirect light is best, however you manage to achieve that. Last year, that meant that I grew these below a south window–on the floor. This year, I will bring them inside to a different room–I am hoping for more natural humidity–and I will set them on a table about 3 feet back from a west window. We’ll see how that goes.

I have seen the recommendation to grow them in the kitchen, again for the humidity. My kitchen faces east, but I think it would be too much sun. Perhaps if the other room doesn’t work out, I will try the kitchen. It’s nice to have options.

4 thoughts on “Foliage is Forever

    • gardendaze August 20, 2021 / 10:56 am

      I would have trouble choosing my favorite houseplant. At the moment, my calatheas are among my favorites but ask me in February when they look so sad and I would definitely tell you it was something else! Also, right now, my monstera adansonii is doing fabulously–but last winter, when it was trying to climb to the ceiling and I could find nothing to support it and make it happy–not so much. So maybe it’s me that’s fickle and not the plants. 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting!

      • bubblebathselfempowerment August 20, 2021 / 11:43 am

        Yes, I get that. When my holiday cactuses, orchid or kalanchoes are blooming, they’re my favorite. When a snake plant has a pup, it’s my favorite, lol. On and on. I just love plants. 🙂

  1. gardendaze August 20, 2021 / 12:11 pm

    I totally agree! It’s like asking a parent to choose a favorite child.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.